Berenice Abbott’s Changing New York



Berenice Abbott’s Changing New York
A lecture by Bonnie Yochelson

Friday, March 19, 2010
7:00 p.m.
Rose Auditorium
41 Cooper Square

In conjunction with the New New York Photography Corps, a volunteer group of architects and design professionals who are documenting New York for a spring 2010 exhibition, the Architectural League presents a lecture by curator and historian Bonnie Yochelson about Berenice Abbott’s landmark photo project of the 1930s.

After nearly a decade in Paris where she had established herself as an accomplished photographer, Berenice Abbott returned to New York in 1929. Seeing for the first time the dramatic results of the 1920s building boom, she moved home, determined to document this new New York.  Assembled over a decade, funded in part by the Federal Art Project and sponsored by the Museum of the City of New York, the resulting Changing New York portfolio contained 305 photographs and was ultimately published as a guidebook for visitors of the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  When asked in 1940 by Popular Photography magazine to name her “favorite picture,” Abbott responded:

“Suppose we took a thousand negatives and made a gigantic montage; a myriad-faceted picture combining the elegances, the squalor, the curiosities, the monuments, the sad faces, the triumphant faces, the power, the irony, the strength, the decay, the past, the present, the future of a city—that would be my favorite picture.”

Bonnie Yochelson, formerly Curator of Prints and Photographs at the Museum of the City of New York, is currently an independent curator and art historian.  Her latest project is Alfred Stieglitz New York, an exhibition that will open September 2010 at the South Street Seaport Museum.  She has written extensively on photography, including: Rediscovering Jacob Riis: Exposure Journalism and Photography in Turn of the Century New York; Berenice Abbott: Changing New York, The Complete WPA Project; New York to Hollywood: The Photography of Karl Struss, and Pictorialism into Modernism: The Clarence H. White School of Photography. She teaches the history of photography in the MFA Program in Photography, Video and Related Media at the School of Visual Arts, New York, and she wrote regularly for “The City Visible,” a New York Times column in “The City” section.

Tickets are free for League and NNY Photo Corps members; $10 for non-members. Members may reserve a ticket by e-mailing: Member tickets will be held at the check-in desk; unclaimed tickets will be released fifteen minutes after the start of the program. Non-members may purchase tickets here, beginning one week before each program until six hours before the program start. Purchased tickets are available for pick-up at the venue check-in desk and are non-refundable.

Image: Lower East Side 1. Waterfront, South Street. Copyright Berenice Abbott.